Sunday, January 07, 2018

Epiphany

The twelve-day feast of Christmas has come to its conclusion: the Magi have arrived at the crêche, the connection to us gentiles has been made. (This is the nativity scene at Holy Apostles. The figures of the Magi and their camels were just put in place this morning.)

The Christianity MOOC in the HDS series we did in "Theorizing Religion" uses Nativity scenes to show how religious tradition synthesizes disparate scriptural sources into a single narrative, indeed a single scene. There's no single gospel in which all we see in a standard nativity takes place: star, manger, ox and ass, shepherds, magi (let alone kings) - and certainly not all at once. And even in the church calendar, there's almost a fortnight between the angels appearing to the shepherds and the arrival of the star-led Magi.

I've long known that Epiphany is more important for some cultures than Christmas itself, but I sort of assumed they just assembled the shepherds and kings at the end of the twelve days, rather than at the start. This is the first year I've noticed the pause. Why? It's because of the MOOC, surely. Also because in response to the attempt by the forces of barbarity to claim "Merry Christmas" for their ethnonationalism, the interim rector at Holy Apostles suggested we might keep saying "Merry Christmas!' to people throughout the twelve days, even as they dumped their Christmas trees on the sidewalk and hurried into the new year.

During that period after the 25h of December, the secular world hurries noisily into a new year, perhaps, "Christmas carols" no longer looping cynically at the mall. But the babe is still a babe, sleeping quietly. The news is held by animals and shepherds. Those seeking him are still seeking. His parents still feel safe in their land. 

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